Yamaha JR1 vs JR2 – Which one is better to choose?

Yamaha is a manufacturer known for producing guitars that are great values, and this goes for guitars in any price range. While Yamaha's high-end guitars have been praised for their incredible sound and build quality, the company's more affordable models also have a lot to offer, especially when compared to inexpensive guitars from other manufacturers. In this article, we'll be doing a thorough comparison of the Yamaha JR1 vs JR2, two of the company's popular and affordable 3/4 scale guitars.

Product Introductions

Both the JR1 and JR2 are members of Yamaha's JR Series, which produces compact versions of the FG Series of acoustic guitars. In this section, we'll go over the basics of each in order to help you decide which is best for you.

Yamaha JR1

This is the less expensive model in the series, although the price difference between the JR1 and JR2 is relatively minimal. This is a 3/4 size guitar, making it slightly smaller than a full-size dreadnought. This model is made of all laminated wood, and it has a spruce top with meranti back and sides. You probably already know about the tonal properties of spruce--it's bright, responsive, and versatile enough to be used for almost any musical genre.

Meranti is a lesser-known wood that you might be less familiar with. It's generally regarded as a budget tonewood, Meranti is very strong, but it has somewhat lackluster tonal qualities. It has a durable nato neck that's capped with a rosewood fretboard, and the rosewood bridge adds a distinctive and beautiful touch. Despite its low cost, this is a guitar that sounds surprisingly good for the price.

Pros & Cons of JR1

Pros

  • The JR1 is modeled after the Yamaha FG series, so it offers quality tone for an affordable price
  • The smaller size makes it easier for children and smaller adults to play
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge are beautiful appointments not commonly found on instruments at this price range
  • All-laminate construction makes it very durable and resistant to price changes

Cons

  • All-laminate build doesn't have the same full, rich tone as a solid-top instrument
  • Some players may prefer a full-size guitar

Yamaha JR2

The JR2 is essentially the upgraded version of the JR1. It's also a 3/4 size, making it a great option for children learning to play guitar (or for adults who need a travel guitar). This one also is made of all laminated wood, and it has a spruce top with back and sides finished with mahogany UTF (ultra-thin film). Of course, while it won't sound like natural mahogany, this unique finish gives the JR2 a unique and beautiful finish. Like the JR1, this guitar has surprisingly good tone given both its size and all-laminate construction.

Pros & Cons of JR2

Pros

  • All-laminate build is very durable and great for travel
  • Ultra thin mahogany film finish adds a touch of distinction
  • Nato neck is durable and resists warping
  • Rosewood bridge and fingerboard make this look like a more expensive instrument than it is

Cons

  • All-laminate build isn't ideal for most players
  • Based on the manufacturer description, it isn't clear what kind of wood is under the ultra thin mahogany finish on the back and sides

Features Face to Face

When looking at the Yamaha JR1 vs JR2, it an initially be difficult to discern differences. After all, these are two similar guitars. In this section, we'll examine their differences when it comes to some of the most important features.

Tonewoods

In this respect, the Yamaha JR2 is very similar to the JR1. Both guitars have laminated spruce tops and nato necks. The back and sides of the JR1 are made of meranti, while the back and sides of the JR2 are made of a laminate topped with mahogany film. Neither is a stellar tonal option, but we think the JR2 wins this round--the mahogany film is beautifully finished, giving this guitar a beautiful finish.

Body Shape

When it comes to body shape, these guitars are the same. Both are dreadnoughts, which is the most popular shape for acoustic guitarists. Dreadnoughts produce full, rich tone, and they work equally well for strumming or fingerpicking. However, it should be noted that these smaller dreadnoughts may have a lesser bass response than full-size dreadnoughts. There's no real winner in this situation--both are an equally good choice.

Appointments

The JR2 acoustic and the JR1 also are very similar when it comes to their appointments. As with the previous section, there's no real winner here, as both guitars have the same appointments. Here's what you get with either:

  • Chrome open-gear tuners--These add a sleek, modern look and support impressive tuning stability, especially for the price range
  • Rosewood fingerboard--These fingerboards are beautiful and fast-playing, and they also impart some warmth to your tone. You don't often find them on guitars at this price point
  • Rosewood bridge--Many less-expensive guitars have bridges made of cheaper woods, but the genuine rosewood on the Yamaha JR1 and JR2 makes them especially beautiful smaller guitars. The Bridge does help somewhat in creating responsive tone, and having a quality tonewood like rosewood as a bridge makes a significant difference, especially in a laminated soundboard.
  • Nut and saddle--As with many inexpensive acoustic instruments, The Yamaha JR1 and the JR2 have plastic nuts and saddles. These do little to enhance tonal qualities. However, it is relatively easy to replace these components yourself with bone or high-quality composites.

Finish Options

When buying an acoustic guitar, finish isn't (or shouldn't) be your primary concern. However, one of the notable JR1 vs JR2 differences is the fact that they come in different finish options. The JR1 comes in a single finish--it's a beautiful antiqued natural look that is sure to please most acoustic guitar players.

On the other hand, the Yamaha JR2 comes in either natural or sunburst. The natural finish isn't antiqued, and it shows off the subtle yet beautiful grain of spruce. The sunburst finish is a lovely dark tobacco finish that's perfect for those who prefer something different from natural acoustic guitar finishes.

In this section, the Yamaha JR2 is the winner--while we love the antiqued look of the JR1, we think that the JR2 acoustic guitar wins this round because buyers can choose a finish.

Accessories

Both the Yamaha JR2 acoustic guitar and the Yamaha JR1 come with a gig bag. This might not sound notable, but most guitars in this price range do not come with either a gig bag or a case. Especially if you are considering using either Yamaha guitar as a travel instrument, having a ready-to-go gig bag is excellent. In this section, since both guitars have the same feature, we think it's a tie.

Standout Features

In this section, we'll go over some of the main features of each Yamaha guitar from the JR Series:

  • Body shape -- Both of these guitars are smaller dreadnoughts, making either a great choice for folk music. dreadnoughts produce a wide frequency range, which makes them great for both accompanying a vocalist or playing in a group. The smaller size helps reduce excessive overtones, which many folk players may appreciate.
  • Tuners -- In a budget instrument, tuners are extraordinarily important. Many cheaper guitars go out of tune easily, making players frustrated when they have to stop to re-tune. These guitars both have Yamaha chrome open-gear tuners, and guitar review comments have mentioned how these guitars hold tune for days at a time.
  • Soundboard -- Both guitars have laminated spruce soundboard. While laminated spruce won't sound as full and nuanced as solid spruce, it still retains some of its tonal properties. Plus, laminated woods tend to not react much to changes in temperature and humidity, making them good for travel.
  • Back and Sides -- Because both these Yamaha guitars are fairly budget-priced, neither has high-end tonewoods for the back and sides. The JR1's meranti back and sides aren't necessarily great for sound quality, but meranti is incredibly durable, making it a good choice for use in travel instruments. On the other hand, the JR2's laminated back and sides use Yamaha's unique ultra thin film technology to add a beautiful veneer of mahogany.

In Conclusion

Neither one of these guitars is necessarily better than the other. However, depending on your needs, you might prefer the JR2 acoustic over the JR1 or vice versa.

Choose the JR1 If...

  • If you're on a very tight budget and cost is a major factor
  • If you prefer the antique natural finish
  • If you don't mind the fact that meranti isn't a particularly great tonewood
  • You want an entry-level guitar whose design is time-tested

If you're in the market for a smaller acoustic guitar and want an instrument that offers great tone for the price, the Yamaha JR1 is an excellent option.

Choose the JR2 If...

  • If you need a smaller guitar but prefer the look and feel of mahogany
  • If you want to choose between different finishes
  • If you like FG Series guitars but want a smaller option

If you'd prefer to choose the flagship model of the series and want a sleeker look than that of the Yamaha JR1, then the JR2 acoustic guitar might be the best option for you.

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